I can’t tell you how many times I have been let down this week. Let down by my children’s father, let down by my friends, let down by the men in my life (there may be a few), let down by the government and just people in general. Where do I begin? Just like I prompt my clients. I guess from the beginning.
It isn’t easy being a single parent. It is almost degrading really. Like if you are a single parent you are the lowest of the low. That’s how it feels sometimes. No one wants to help you. You can’t get any childcare as it’s too much pressure or the house is a mess or too chaotic. If you are lucky enough to work the government won’t help you financially. So, you’re on your own there. No help from the government and no financial help from the ex well now that’s a double whammy. But even though life as a single parent has it’s woes there is an upside of it, too. As the great Taoist philosopher Lao Zao would say- take every negative experience, learn from it and turn it into something positive- this is how I live my life. So, when things get me down like- my ex hasn’t given me money in 9 months- instead of holding onto that negativity I say to myself- I have been smashing it for 9 months on my own. I have worked my ass off and supported my children on my own with no help for the past 9 months. How awesome am I? I have taught my kids what a strong, independent, single parent CAN do when she sets her mind to it and focuses. Shedding the negativity. I don’t need to be in another unhealthy relationship because I think to myself ‘I can’t do it on my own’ because I AM doing it on my own!! And, I don’t need help doing anything. That feels amazing and it is very empowering. It’s such a buzz! And, trust me ladies…I still feel sorry for myself sometimes. After all, I am human. But, I do not let those feelings hold me back- at least not for too long.
Life as a single parent. It is not for the faint hearted. It is not for the meek. It is not for the mild. To be a single parent you must be a warrior!
You must get up at 6.30am to take your eldest to high school. It doesn’t matter if you’ve stayed up until midnight drinking wine with your friends, thrown your back out, have had major surgery or have had a dodgy curry and have had diarrhea all night and morning. You are still getting up and taking your child to school. There is no one else. Then when you get back you will brush your teeth because essentially you have just rolled right out of bed to complete the first task of the day. You then take a quick shower. Then you take the two other children to school. First you make a fried egg for your middle child and give her a pep talk as she is going to need it. Because the youngest child will have a full blown tantrum. One that makes the whole family cry even me. She will need to be forced to get dressed, screaming like there is someone pulling her finger nails out with a pair of metal pliers. Then you will have to physically put her in the car and lock her in crying and shouting because well- she’s a kid and doesn’t want to go to school. Your neighbors are watching and thinking ‘oh dear’ or ‘what a lovely morning’ because of course they are British and ignore that you have just literally foot planted your child into the car after dragging her on the cement from the front door. After, throwing her in the car you will verbally threatened her by saying if she doesn’t get in the car you will call the police. And, if she doesn’t go to school we will be homeless living on the streets. Because after all she doesn’t already put enough pressure on herself already. And, where is the ex in all of this? Not around. That is the life of a single parent.
After the kids get dropped off at school- round two- you will get back to the house and finish getting ready for work. Make up and hair. Grab books, computer and pen and shed all the stress that has been endured as you drive to work knowing that you are going to have to pull your shit together because you have to actually use your brain for a living. You will work until closing time. Have to manage after school care and liaise with nanny, friends and school.. all on your own back both physically and financially not to mention emotionally. Emotionally this can be very draining. When you get home dinner will be bought and cooked. Then it’s clean up time! The forever mess that seems to get dirtier the more you clean it so you just say ‘F’ it… and let the cleaning go. Homework time. How was your day? Bath time. Play time. Work some more. Organize the day for tomorrow. Bed time. Hearing the giggling and chatting of the children. Me shouting down ‘girls, go to sleep’ in an attempt of a stern voice, but deep down loving the relationship that they have with one another has every bit to do with me. One more glass of wine from mom. Shower. Read or Netflix… trying to write more. Repeat. That is the life of a single parent.
And if you are a single parent like I am you will understand what I mean. I mean cleaning your house is not a top priority as much as your sanity. Even so, your children’s happiness and their well-being is at the top of this hierarchy. Life as a single parent one does not have a lot of leisure time. But, I am okay with that. Again, my Taoist views remind me… I love cooking. I love creating in the kitchen. I don’t care about mess. I know it’s not forever. And, I love my kids and having them all to myself. They are the most amazing creatures I have ever had the honor knowing and getting to know with their ever changing little personalities. I am so lucky. They make me laugh and smile every day. That is life as a single parent.
Life as a single parent is far from easy. The other day when my car was being clamped because I did not pay £2.50 apparently through the Dartford Tunnel (which ironically I have an account and my bank account showed I did pay, I emailed them to show proof and they did not acknowledge this even though it was written in the bailiff’s notes- wow what a brut he was….they could not help me- I had no options and no one to help- not even a hotline. I do not take this personally because even if you were not a single parent you would have more than likely been screwed here. Take note.) – While he was handing me my fine of £400 I told him I couldn’t afford this right now because I am a single parent his response was ‘WE ALL have children.’ My mouth literally dropped. Words could not express. Well, hell. No words could even come out. Fun fact: No one has children like the single parent has children. It is not the same. Now, I did not even engage with him after that. I told my daughter to come out of the car and called a cab to only deal with him after I got my kids to school. After all, a single mother knows her priorities. Her children always come first. That is the life of a single parent.
Take dating for an example. No one wants to date you because your children will throw tantrums the moment they turn up with flowers in their hand- no wait- we are in Brighton- men don’t do that- do they? No one wants to date single mothers. Why? Well, some men that I have met on my journey can’t stand the competition. Some men that I have met on my journey want to live like Peter Pan for the rest of their life. Other men are too needy and need someone at their beck and call all of the time. Well, that is not me. I am strong and independent. Life as a single parent teaches you that. The only thing we need is our dignity, our strength, our children and well technically.. a good vibrator!
If you ask a single parent out you better have a back bone with good intentions or her children will eat you alive. Can you handle that? Do you have enough guts to deal with that? Well, it’s not even guts you need. Her children will see right through you. Are you smart enough for my mommy? Are you capable of looking after her? us? Children who have one mommy where daddy has let them down will not let just anyone in their life and rightly so. But to be fair gentleman, single moms actually don’t need a man. If you are lucky enough to be invited in know this… they can do everything on their own back. They don’t need you. They want you. Can you handle that? And, if they decide to let you in their life- cherish her. It will be an honor. That is the life of a single parent.
There are so many aspects of the ins and outs of being a single parent. It isn’t easy, but who said life was easy all of the time.
post script: the motivation of this written expression is due to the result of my work at the hospital today. It saddens me that so many women who are raising children on their own are not getting the support that they need. I am aware that the NHS have loads of financial cuts and the schools, too. But, it just doesn’t seem right. I could see the pain in the mothers’ eyes when I ask are you on your own with your children? And, when I speak to mothers on the phone the first thing they say is ‘I have had a difficult start of the day already’ and ‘it’s not getting any better’ and ‘I am on my own.’ I thought that by sharing my experience as a Chartered Counselling Psychologist and as a single parent that others would know that they are never alone and that there is help and support out there. Ask your GP to give you more information on how you can receive support as a single parent. Let’s raise the bar and ask for help. Help that we deserve and need for raising the next generation. #getwellbrighton.
Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to support these single parents who are parenting difficult children on their own. Now, that IS a Superpower. Stay strong out there. www.brightonwellnesscentre.co.uk.
Jessica Valentine is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist who supports people within the local community and worldwide online. She offers online Skype therapy and face-to-face counselling in East Sussex, Brighton-Hove.
follow her on FB and IG: @getwellbrighton